IS using ‘human shields’ as Iraqi forces advance in Fallujah

Baghdad, May 31 (IANS) Islamic State is using several hundred families as “human shields” in Fallujah, Iraq, witnesses told the UN agency for refugees UNHCR. It comes just one day after Iraqi troops forced their way into the city, a stronghold of the militant group.

“UNHCR has received reports of causalities among civilians in the city centre of Fallujah due to heavy shelling, including 7 members of one family on the 28th of May,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman William Spindler said during a Tuesday news briefing.

“There are also reports of several hundred families being used as human shields by IS in the centre of Fallujah,” he added.

Iraqi troops forced their way into the city from three directions on Monday, capturing a police station.

IS militants fought back overnight, managing to ward off an onslaught by the army in a southern district of Fallujah, according to officers.

Fallujah, which survived some of the heaviest fighting of the 2003-2011 US-led military intervention, was the first city in Iraq to fall to IS control in January 2014. In late June, 2014, the extremists declared a caliphate in territories seized in Iraq and Syria.

But despite the apparent gains in Fallujah, Iraqi troops still have a long road ahead of them. IS still controls territory in the country’s north and west, including the country’s second largest city, Mosul.

–IANS

ahm/vt

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